- Published on Monday, 04 March 2013 18:12
Becomes Chair of American Council on Education
The TIAA-CREF Institute announced March 4 that Diana Natalicio, president of The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), is the winner of the 2013 TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence. The institute bestowed this honor at the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
President Natalicio also assumed the chair position of the Board of Directors of ACE, the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions.
The TIAA-CREF Hesburgh award, which includes a $20,000 prize, recognizes leadership and commitment to higher education and contributions to the greater good and is presented to a current college or university president or chancellor who embodies the spirit of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and his contributions to higher education and society.
During her 25 years as the first female president of The University of Texas at El Paso, President Natalicio has guided the institution’s vision to serve talented young people from culturally and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds by ensuring that it offers the full capacity, breadth and innovation of a national research university, while creating access and affordability for a 21st-century student demographic.
“The TIAA-CREF Institute is thrilled to recognize Dr. Natalicio’s commitment to create educational access for talented young people, who are critical to the future success of our nation,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director and head of the TIAA-CREF Institute. “Her work truly reflects the spirit of both Father Hesburgh and this award.”
Demonstrating UTEP’s commitment to create access for the majority Hispanic and first-generation students from the broader El Paso region, President Natalicio established financial aid programs to make enrollment possible, and worked to recruit and retain highly successful Hispanic faculty members, whose professional accomplishments could serve as a model for Hispanic students.
"I am deeply honored to be a recipient of the Hesburgh Award and enormously grateful for this recognition of the role that I've been privileged to play over the past 25 years in raising educational aspirations and attainment along this U.S.-Mexico border," she said. "From discovering the abundant talent in a region with historically low access to higher education, to building collaborations with partners from pre-kindergarten to college to foster that talent, to aligning access and affordability with excellence, to enabling thousands of young people to achieve the American Dream, I can't imagine any more intellectually challenging and professionally fulfilling work."
President Natalicio’s commitment has been not just to her university, but to the entire surrounding El Paso community. In 1991, she formed the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a partnership among UTEP, El Paso Community College, all nine school districts in El Paso County, and local business and civic leaders, to raise educational aspirations and attainment among young people in the region.
“We face many challenges in higher education, and ACE is proud to join the TIAA-CREF Institute in honoring leaders like Dr. Natalicio who are working to promote diversity and access to education for all students,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.
The University of Texas at El Paso has seen impressive metrics during President Natalicio’s 25-year tenure. Enrollment has increased from 14,971 to 22,700 students, and the number of doctoral programs offered by the university has grown from one to 19, with more awaiting authorization. Degree completions have also grown dramatically at the institution, with an 85 percent increase in undergraduate degrees awarded over the past decade—more than 80 percent of them to Hispanics.
President Natalicio succeeds Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University (MA), as president of ACE and will serve a one-year term. Before becoming ACE Board chair, Natalicio served as vice chair.
“American higher education has entered a potentially transformative era, one of formidable challenges but also great opportunities,” President Natalicio said. “As it so often has in the past, the world is looking to the U.S. system of higher education for leadership, and I am honored that my colleagues have elected me as ACE board chair at this important time.”
President Natalicio also serves on the board of trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation and on the board of directors of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. She also has served on the boards of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Science, the NASA Advisory Council, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Trinity Industries, Sandia Corporation and Internet2. She was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as a member of the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Initially appointed to the National Science Board (NSB) by President Bill Clinton in 1994, she served two six-year terms as a board member and three two-year terms as the NSB’s vice chair.
President Natalicio was recognized in 2011 by the president of Mexico with the Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca, the highest honor bestowed on foreign nationals. She received the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education in 1997, was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1999, was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award at the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, and is the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from Georgetown University, Smith College and the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon.
President Natalicio received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from St. Louis University, a master’s degree in Portuguese and a doctoral degree in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin.